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Bukola Olayemi: Getting Your First Customers



So, you have transformed that great idea into an equally great product? Congratulations!

Now open for business, you sit by the phone waiting for the calls to start coming in. One day, two days, one week- nothing. On the eighth day, the phone begins to ring loudly and you are overjoyed, only to let out a long hiss when you discover it’s a customer care call from your network provider, informing you of their new subscription packages.

It’s a month now, and not a single sale. “But there’s great need for my product”, you complain, “It’s such a great service I’m offering. I should be having so many orders by now.” Story for the gods.

I’m sorry to burst your bubbles, but great product does not mean great patronage. You may have the best idea known to man, but except someone else- besides you- wants it, your idea is nothing. Welcome to the real world of business, where the market does not live by your rules.

Your first customers are a source of great excitement and motivation for you as it shows people are interested in your offering. But getting them can be a big struggle.

Ready to break through and get your first customers? Then, Jack, you’ve got to hit the road and do some hard core, face to face networking in addition to sitting behind the computer, building your brand’s online presence.

Here are a few workable ideas to help you hit the ground running.

Get a Plan
He who fails to plan, is planning to fail. Right? Before you make any move, whip up your pen, journal , thinking cap, and get down to work. Don’t just make decisions as the days go by. Make a detailed marketing plan- “these are the things I will do to get customers who will be willing to pay for my product/services”. As you progress in marketing, you will need to tweak your plan occasionally. Don’t be reluctant to do this. What is important is to work with a plan- a guide on the steps you will take to make it work.

Know Your Customer
Unless you know who your ideal customers are, how will you know where to find them? Be guided, you can’t serve everybody. Most entrepreneurs are unclear about their ideal customer. So, they waste a lot of time and money trying to sell to people who aren’t good potential customers. In consulting for entrepreneurs, when I ask my clients “Tell me, who is your customer?” I often get this response “My customer is everyone that can afford it.” No sir, that is not your ideal customer.

Streamline your target market. The benefits of defining and working with your ideal customer is that you have a set of prospects with similar attributes such as demographics, hobbies, interests, networks and others. This way, you don’t need to duplicate your marketing resources and efforts to attract several different sets of potential customers. This saves you money, and increases the results of your marketing.

The greater clarity you have concerning your ideal customer, the more focused and effective your marketing efforts will be.

What’s in It For Me?
Every potential customer is constantly tuned to a special radio station- the WII FM. That is, “What’s In It For Me?”

Sorry, but no one cares if your product is the best thing known to man. No one gives a hoot that it’s made from the best materials. All they want to know is how it can solve their present problem, or prevent a future problem. How can it make their lives better? You have to convince them on the value of your product to them.

People don’t buy for pity. If they do it once, they will not do it again. So how do you get anyone to buy from you? By showing them how your product can genuinely meet their needs. This is your value proposition. If you sell inverters for instance, the value of your product to your customers can be that it helps save their money; money that would have been spent on buying fuel for their generators. If you’re a Doctor, you save lives.

When you have outlined your value proposition, start practicing. Charity begins at home, right? Alright then, look yourself in the mirror and practice convincing ‘you’ on your value proposition. Sweetheart , if you can’t convince yourself, absolutely no one will believe you when you hit the road. Get a few friends or family and practice selling to them. Until you can successfully share your value proposition with confidence and clarity, and show how, do not get out that door.

Start with Your Warm Market
Your warm market means people whom you already have a relationship with; your friends, family, present and past colleagues.
When looking for customers for your product or service, start with your current network- your warm market. Your circle of friends and family are a great source for your first customers. They already know you, and your integrity (considering you have one). So it’s easier to convincing them on your value proposition.

Friends and family will provide you with constructive feedback concerning your product. If it has flaws, they will be more willing to forgive you than others. If possible, get them to actually pay for the product/service. When someone pays, it’s easier for give you truthful feedback . And that is what you need, to help you improve.

Use the Power of Influencers
Influencers are individuals with a wide reach of followers. They are respected for their credibility, knowledge and expertise on certain areas. Basically put, influencers have influence on their followers’ decisions. They get listened to, and their recommendations are held in high regard, especially on social media.

Having an influencer say a positive word about your business can give a big boost. Reach out to influencers in your field. Bearing in mind that everyone is tuned in to the WII-Fm , determine what you can do for them. What value can you give to him/her? Most times, businesses give the influencer their products/services for free. This is good. But sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box. Be more creative. Everyone does that, so do something different.

Study the influencer, follow their posts online, see if you can put your finger on something they need, love, have not been able to source but you can, something that will make them go ‘wow’. Whatever it is, reach out to with it, then tell them about your product and its value proposition. Tell them you would appreciate if they can drop a few positive words/recommendation about your product/service to their audience. If possible, get them to take a photo of themselves with your product, and post on social media. For instance, if you make shoes, get the influencer to take a photo of himself wearing a pair of your shoes, and a big smile. Have them post the photo to their social media feeds with a good word/review on it.

Dear entrepreneur, no need to hit your head against the wall because no one is buying from you. Start with these tips and your business lines will begin to ring with orders from potential customers. Look out for my next post, I will be giving you a few more tips to bring customers knocking.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Luba V Nel

Bukie Iwajomo is the chief strategist at SalesForward Consulting. She works with start-ups, personal and consumers brands helping them leverage tech to grow their businesses and build badass brands. Follow her daily marketing tips on Instagram. You can also connect with her on Facebook



    September 19, 2014 at 10:26 am

    First, it was Frances’ article. Now yours. Bellanaija is giving me lovely articles today. Great work dear. I like this – You may have the best idea known to man, but except someone else- besides you- wants it, your idea is nothing

  2. newbie

    September 19, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Great article. KnowYour Customer (KYC) is often underrated, yet so vital to businesses, especially small businesses with limited resources to spend on luxuries like marketing.

  3. Blessing

    September 19, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Bukola, thanks for this article.

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 1:34 am

      Thanks for reading, Blessing.

  4. Zirazinny

    September 19, 2014 at 11:02 am


  5. Glowing

    September 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Thanks Hun…Beautiful and Challenging Piece.

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 1:41 am

      You’re welcome!

  6. Nori

    September 19, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Great stuff. #iLike

  7. cos I say so

    September 19, 2014 at 11:36 am

    This came at the right time,just starting out my own hair line and all I’ve been getting is inquiries but no patronage when I know I’m offering a premium product at an unbelievably reduced rate,and it’s reduced cos I got the rare opportunity to meet the wholesaler
    This was a beautiful piece and very much needed piece of info
    God bless u

    • His & Hers

      September 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      Why not try another business. Not hair again, the market is over saturated, and even if you finish knowing your customers, how do you think you will take them from their already trusted vendor. You will continue to get calls only from people who also have not thought outside of the box and looking to sell hair.

      Be different, look for something innovative!

    • Rose

      September 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      And what if “cos I say so’ is passionate about selling hair? How do you resolve that?

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Thank you!
      Like I wrote in my last article here on BN, sometimes it’s really not about the price. No matter how low the price of your product is, if your potential customers don’t think the value they will get from it is more than the price you’re offering, they will not buy.
      I’d advise you to create your own niche in the hair business and differentiate your business from your competition.
      There’s so much you can do. Here’s to your business success.

  8. Khaleesi

    September 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    more businesses in Nigeria need to understand how key this is to their success.

  9. Mimi

    September 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you Bukola. You don’t know what you have done for me by writing this post.. Thank you.

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Mimi, I’m so glad you found this helpful. Thanks for the feedback.

  10. Miss Pee

    September 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    @ Bukola, In a situation where you’ve sent mails to those ‘influencers’ asking if you should send your product to them and they don’t reply, what should that individual(entrepreneur) do?
    This is from a personal experience. Thank you

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:00 am

      More often than not, influencers are very busy people, and there may be a thousand and one other individuals reaching out to them by mail as well. So your message has to stand out, you have to be very creative with your email, don’t come across like someone who just wants to get a favour. Feed them their radio frequency- the WII Fm, your mail should answer this question for them “why should I help you?”
      Also, keep your mail short and concise. The Subject, and the first 2 lines should pique their interest.

    • Tee bobo

      September 24, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Hi Miss Pee! I can imagine the avalanche of messages these influencers receive daily. Why should they pay more attention to yours? You can do something different by sending your products directly to them via a known courier company with a short message enclosed. This might set you apart from the others…it is a risk worth taking I guess.

  11. adeleke

    September 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    @his&hers @cos i say so. Trying other biz is not the solution. Every biz with its own peculiar challenges. If you can’t succeed where your passion lies, tell me how you can succeed in other biz? There are always a solution and one of it is this timely article by Bukola. As saturated as it is, not every one satisfies their customers hence they look for better option. The life of an entrepreneur is like that of a lion in the jungle, if you don’t kill (make sales), you won’t survive. Even lions strategize else they will die of hunger with all their strength. My 10kobo tot.

  12. Dr. N

    September 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Love love love

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:01 am

      Thank you.

  13. nene

    September 19, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    nne you really went to school! this reminds me of a marketing class i took back in school.

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:03 am

      Lol. Nene, thanks for the feedback.

  14. x-factor

    September 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    great stuff!

  15. Bellemoizelle

    September 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks this is so cool,am starting a business soon ,though I have a full time job but a side business on my own,just when I need this…Thanks!!! La vie est belle….

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:04 am

      Thanks. Great success with the new business.

  16. pearl

    September 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks Buki, this is wat I needed to feed my biz at this point in time.

  17. great

    September 19, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Spot on. Wow another wonderful piece from bella naija.

  18. olatemmy

    September 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Very educative write-up, can’t wait to have more

  19. Queen

    September 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks to bellanaija for all these educative write ups.

  20. tunde

    September 23, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Wow!!! Great article. Powerful marketing strategies for every business.

  21. word

    September 23, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Very practical stuff!

  22. Lucia

    September 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Nice piece Bukky. More power to your elbow.

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:05 am

      Thank you, Lucia!

  23. Tosin

    September 23, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks, came just at the right time. Great piece bukky

    • Bukola Olayemi

      September 24, 2014 at 2:05 am

      I’m glad it was helpful. Thanks for the feedback.

  24. Tee bobo

    September 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

    This is just what I needed now. I am a brand partner with a company that just launched in the country with an amazing product line. The issue has been…who knows your products? what credibility do you have? Some of the tips here just opened a whole new world for me. Thanks Bukola

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